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Almost Half Of Primary Schools In Jamaica To Re-open For In-person Classes

Jamaica's Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, emphasises a point, while making a statement during the sitting of the House of Representatives on Tuesday, October 26. Photo credit: Mark Bell/JIS.

Almost Half Of Primary Schools In Jamaica To Re-open For In-person Classes

KINGSTON, Jamaica (October 28, 2021) — A total of 376 out of a total of 759 primary schools will reopen for face-to-face classes, beginning on Monday, November 8 — affecting 45,390 students and approximately 2,520 teachers.

Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, who made the announcement, said the schools were selected, following an in-depth risk assessment of all the primary schools across the island.

“The Ministry of Health [and Wellness], along with the Ministry of Education [Youth and Information]… will provide the necessary guidance and monitoring as to how this process will be done. They will be informing the schools, shortly,” he said, in a statement, during the sitting of the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

Holness explained that schools were chosen, based on their risk profile, which looked at enrolment, the institutions’ utilisation rate, that is, the number of students enrolled versus the number of spaces, and the number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the communities, where they are located.

The risk analysis also looked at access to water for drinking and sanitation purposes, Internet connectivity, and the average distance travelled by students in commuting to and from school.

The Prime Minister noted that of the 376 schools selected for reopening, 191, or approximately 51 percent, are small primary schools with fewer than 100 students enrolled.

“A further breakdown of the 191 small schools, shows that 171 are rural, remote schools with students living within proximity to the school and require minimal transportation,” he said.

“Students in rural or remote communities are more affected by lack of Internet or low bandwidth issues, and are less likely to be consistently on the online platform. It is on this basis that small primary schools are being recommended in this phase of face-to-face resumption,” he further pointed out.

Holness advised that these small primary schools may operate the full cohort of students daily or on rotation, meaning having some students in face-to-face-mode and others working remotely.

“In all cases, all students at these primary schools must have some face-to-face learning every week,” he stressed.

The Prime Minister noted that for the medium-sized primary schools selected, 185 have an enrolment of 630 students or fewer and are occupying 80 percent or less of their total spaces.

These institutions will also use a rotation approach, with the requirement that all students must have some face-to-face learning every week.

In the meantime, the Prime Minister made a strong appeal for all adults, including teachers and other support staff operating in the school environment, to get vaccinated if they have not already done so, especially if they have co-morbidities.

“You will be working among children. Most of them will be unvaccinated and may have the virus and not show any symptoms. In fact, 90 percent of them will not show symptoms.

“As adults working in the school environment and, of course, parents and caregivers at home, you will need to protect yourselves by getting vaccinated. There are plenty of vaccines available and there are many sites, where you can get your vaccination,” the Prime Minister urged.

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